Air traffic services provider NATS has warned of possible delays for flights in the London area as it prepares for a three-week upgrade to the air traffic control system.

NATS says the current paper-based system has largely remained unchanged for decades. The London Terminal Control Centre is upgrading to a new electronic tool called EXCDS, which NATS says is needed to aid in the modernisation of the UK’s airspace.

Starting Wednesday, 4 April, NATS will undertake a three-week programme to upgrade the London terminal system, which the organisation warns could cause delays to some flights.

NATS says it will have to reduce the amount of air traffic in the sector by 20 per cent for the first ten days to allow controllers to learn to use the new system, followed by a 10 per cent reduction for the remaining ten days.

It has also requested government permission to start flights earlier in the morning and run them later at night during the first ten days, although it says it will attempt to avoid this if possible.

The new system has already been rolled out for NATS’ northern sector, which covers flights at Heathrow, Luton Stansted and London City to and from the north. The London upgrade will cover services at Heathrow, Gatwick and the airspace to the south and south-east.

While NATS anticipates only slight delays during the transition, it warns that some services might experience a larger impact. The organisation says it has worked with the airports and airlines over the last year to minimise the likelihood of severe delays.

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